The Washington Nationals outfield was one of the most intriguing position groups of the 2018 season. Two of the team's star figures, Bryce Harper and Juan Soto, resided out there more than 200 feet from home plate.
Fittingly, we'll start our position review series taking a look at the most talented group of players on the Nationals.
Overall, they were outstanding. Each of the nine players brought something different to the team. Whether it was Harper doing Harper things, Soto continuing to break teenager records, or Michael A. Taylor filling in nearly every other day, there was versatility each night.
Good news for the Nationals is most of these guys will be back. Of all the outfielders still on the roster, only Harper is set to become a free agent.
The unit is young and has strong depth. Potentially it also has Howie Kendrick, who missed a majority of the season and is still under contract for a year.
Honestly this could be a position group that has some of their bench pieces on the trading block during the offseason. There are holes spattered around the rest of the roster and there are outfielders to spare with or without Harper coming back.
Without further ado, here is a look at each of the outfielders this past season.
2018 salary: $21.6 million
2018 stats: .249/.393/.496, 159 G, 695 PA, 550 AB, 137 H, 103 R, 34 HR, 100 RBI, 34 2B, 0 3B, 130 BB, 169 SO, 133 OPS+, bWAR 1.3
There are multiple ways to look at Harper's production this season. In some ways he was productive, in others it was one of his worst years on record.
He took care of the important stats. With 34 home runs it was his second-highest dinger output of his career (only behind his MVP season in 2015) and tied for the seventh-most in the National League. Although a slightly irrelevant stat, he did have a career-high 100 RBIs as well.
As a whole his batting average was .249. But if you take into account how poor his start to the season was, and a .214 batting average with that, the just turned 26-year-old finished nicely.
Spin it as you will, his OPS was .889 with a MLB-leading 130 walks.
Harper is still the best position player with a Curly W on his chest. If he returns, that title will not exchange hands next season.
2018 salary: $545,000
2018 stats: .292/.406/.517, 116 G, 494 PA, 414 AB, 121 H, 77 R, 22 HR, 70 RBI, 25 2B, 1 3B, 79 BB, 99 SO, 133 OPS+, bWAR 3.0
Call him a kid. Call him our son. Call him a phenom.
Whatever you call him, he is the future of the Nationals. With Soto in the outfield it makes the idea of the team not wanting to sign Harper sound a little less crazy.
For your convenience, here is a list of all of the accomplishments he had this past season.
What makes it all even more impressive is that he did not even play the full season. He was called up in the middle of May.
His 22 home runs, 70 RBIs, 121 hits, .292 batting average, .923 OPS all came with him only playing three-quarters of a season.
Oh and he turns 20 in less than a week.
2018 salary: $6 million
2018 stats: .301/.394/.411, 95 G, 370 PA, 319 AB, 96 H, 55 R, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 18 2B, 1 3B, 38 BB, 64 SO, 114 OPS+, bWAR 1.1
A stint on the 60-day disabled list did not prevent Adam Eaton from having the best hitting season of his career. He had career-highs in batting average (.301) and OBP (.394) only playing in 95 games.
He's never been a long ball hitter, but getting him on-base is his strongest asset. In nearly every contest the seven-year veteran batted lead-off for the Nats. However, the Nationals were unable to take advantage of him getting on base. Eaton only came around to score 55 runs.
With Harper, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and Juan Soto typically batting behind him, that is a total that should be much higher.
Of note, 2019 will be his final season under contract for the Nationals. This season, perhaps even the offseason, Washington will need to decide if he is one of the right pieces going forward. Re-signing Harper is sure to be a big factor in that decision.
Michael A. Taylor
2018 salary: $2.5 million
2018 stats: .227/.287/.357, 134 G, 385 PA, 353 AB, 80 H, 46 R, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 22 2B, 3 3B, 29 BB, 24 SB, 116 SO, 69 OPS+, bWAR 0.9
Initially filling in for the injured Eaton, Taylor had a formidable 2018 season. Performing on the field and at the plate earned him a start in the regular rotation.
Of the regular contributors he did have the lowest batting average in the outfield. His speed however is what he brings to this squad.
Holding the fort at center field, alongside whichever pair of Nationals at his side, he makes it difficult for balls to get behind him.
Defensively he is a huge asset to Washington. Offensively he does need to pick it up.
2018 salary: $545,000
2018 stats: .253/.306/.320, 57 G, 86 PA, 75 AB, 19 H, 9 R, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 2 2B, 0 3B, 6 BB, 23 SO, 66 OPS+, bWAR -0.2
This season was the most action that Andrew Stevenson has seen since being drafted by the Nationals in 2015.
At 24 with 75 at-bats, he mustered a .253 average for a decent year as a call-up.
The jury is still out for Stevenson, but the Nats have plenty of time to decide what move to make with him. The next two years he is under team control and is likely a tradable piece.
2018 salary: $545,000
2018 stats: .288/.348/.525, 21 G, 66 PA, 59 AB, 17 H, 8 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 BB, 12 SO, 127 OPS+, bWAR 0.4
Everyone was waiting to see Victor Robles, the Nationals top prospect, get some consistent playing time with the Nats.
This season he got that time in September, with the team pretty much out of postseason contention.
There was nothing too staggering about Robles during that month, but he did piece together a .288 batting average. The big highlight was this monster homer he hit.
He'll get more time in 2019. Without Harper he'll likely be on the team's daily roster.
2018 salary: $114,270
2018 stats: .167/.217/.204, 96 G, 60 PA, 54 AB, 9 H, 4 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 BB, 20 SO, 12 OPS+, bWAR -0.7
Probably the only National on this list that you haven't heard of but the Nats took a chance on Moises Sierra in the minor leagues.
In the lineup for 27 games in Washington, Sierra did not do much on the offensive end, batting .217. He's still a fringe major leaguer and has a lot to prove to get extra time with this group of players.
2018 salary: $3 million
2018 stats: .303/.331/.474, 40 G, 160 PA, 152 AB, 46 H, 17 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 14 2B, 0 3B, 12 BB, 29 SO, 110 OPS+, bWAR -0.2
At the time the loss of Kendrick was considered detrimental for the Nationals. He was the team's primary second baseman to start the season and his injury led to Daniel Murphy seeing significant time.
Still, he did play in the outfield, although he has lost the speed from his youth in Los Angeles.
He had a phenomenal offensive start to the season no matter what spot he was at in the batting order.
Likely he will not be an option in the outfield, given the new crop of players that proved themselves this season. But, do not be surprised if Kendrick has to spend some time in the grass if Harper is not on the roster next season.
Kendrick is guy that the Nationals cannot afford to not be in the batting order.
The Other Guys:
There are two other outfielders that saw action in 2018, Brian Goodwin and Rafael Bautista.
Goodwin was traded to the Kansas City Royals before the trade deadline. He had limited production with the Nats over the past three seasons. With Soto, Taylor, and
Robles now in a position to step in, the organization simply did not have room for him.
Bautista got sent back to the minor leagues and will likely stay there unless there are some unforeseen injuries.
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